Holy Unanticipated Occurrences


Disclaimer: Holy Unanticipated Occurrences is not my phrase. As much as I might like to have penned it, I did not. Kate DiCamillo did. Ahna and I are reading her latest book Flora and Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures Flora and Ulysses Book Trailer. We highly recommend it.

There are the fictional Holy Unanticipated Occurences (HUOs) like when Flora revives a squirrel after it was attacked by a vacuum. Then there are factual HUOs that sound fictional. Recently I read that fly-tying fishermen were fuming because of the new hair feather fad. Apparently, the feathers–designed for fly fishing–are also perfect for hair because they can be blow-dried, curled and last for many weeks and sometimes months. Hairdressers are competing with fisherman to get their hands on the popular feathers driving up the prices and creating shortages. Who would’ve ever expected Hannah the Hairdresser to be fighting over feathers with Frank the Fly Fisherman? Definitely a holy unanticipated occurrence.

A real-life holy unanticipated occurrence happened to me a few years ago with a student I’ll call Jeff. Jeff had been accepted into a special after school program for homework support. The teachers gave the students quiet time, snacks and supplies to get their homework done. It was perfect for Jeff because he was capable of doing the work, but just didn’t have a home life conducive to setting him up for success. The only problem was day after day Jeff “forgot” to go. He reassured me that he wanted to go, but he just couldn’t remember. On one particular day I’d reminded Jeff at the end of school to walk to room 7. I watched him head that way and then duck out a door and start heading home.

“Jeff!” I yelled. “Homework club!” I could tell he heard me because he picked up speed toward his house a few blocks from the school.

So I decided to run after him. He looked back wide-eyed as he saw I was gaining on him. I imagined how ridiculous I looked running after an eight-year-old. To give himself an advantage, he dropped his heavy backpack by a tree. I stopped, picked it up and started walking back to the school.

“Hey!” he yelled. “Hey Mrs. Rader you can’t take that! It’s got my cell phone.”

“It’ll be in room 7 at homework club,” I hollered back and kept walking.

“Why are you doing this?” he asked as he got closer.

“Because I care about you enough to want to give you this opportunity,” I said.

Jeff attended homework club that day with his backpack and then remembered for the rest of the week. I have no idea what possessed me to chase him down and use his backpack as bait. I do know that he told the other kids, “You better not forget to go to homework club or Mrs. R will run you down.”

Flora didn’t expect to give CPR to a rodent. The hairdressers couldn’t have predicted they’d cause problems for fly fishermen. I didn’t anticipate heading through the neighborhood to get my point across to a third grader. Holy Unanticipated Occurrences are both divine and unpredictable. I love our new phrase.

What HUOs are you reading or thinking about?




4 thoughts on “Holy Unanticipated Occurrences

  1. I love this. It is so wonderful to put a name to this “occurrence.” It seems like in my classroom we experience HUOs on a daily basis (seriously!)… and because of this, our experiences are richer and more meaningful!

    • Tracy, It’s so nice to hear from you. And what you said is so true. Every five minutes can be a holy unanticipated occurrence in the classroom!

  2. Love this, both the story and the term! I’m picturing a kid pick up speed when he hears you call his name and you chasing after him – funny! And good for you for running him down! Or at least enough to get the backpack.
    As Tracy mentioned above, I feel like HUOs happen on a regular basis, though I can’t think of any specific story to tell at the moment. I think my kids or I, (or one of my teaching partners), is regularly surprised by something unexpected that happens that (again, thanks Tracy), makes our days richer. No day ever goes the way you plan it – HUOs are bound to happen. It’s part of why I love this job.

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